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Poor Workplace Health & Safety Standards to Hit Businesses’ Bottom Line

Recent consultation around a possible shake-up of health and safety sentencing guidelines which could see big companies hit by large fines of up to £20 million from late 2015, has been a wake-up call to industry.

For too long now, businesses have perhaps overlooked the importance of health and safety in the workplace in favour of cost-cutting measures or simply because there’s always something more pressing to deal with. The very term “health and safety” has seemingly been trivialised at the detriment of significant health and safety breaches which have had dire consequences for employers  and employees.

While the UK’s incidence rate of fatal injury to workers is one of the lowest in the EU and has continued to fall across the last 20 years, there is no room for complacency. The fact is, there are some very basic health and safety protection measures that businesses can adopt to keep their workforce, and the people that pass through their doors, safe.

Whether you’re working back of house in a hectic kitchen where spillages are common place, or a busy office block which sees hundreds of people transit through every day, health and safety cannot and should not be overlooked. A short term oversight could result in a longer-term penalty.

PAYING A HEAVY PRICE

It’s a fact, slips and trips are the most common cause of major injuries in the workplace, costing the industry in excess of £512 million per year and resulting in a loss of nearly one million working days in the UK. 

This clearly has a knock-on effect on our already strained healthcare system, costing £133 million each year. This is staggering. Something as simple as a slip or trip in the workplace accounts for over one third of major workplace injuries, causing over 22,000 workers to suffer a serious injury. 

The health and social care sector recorded the highest rate of non-fatal employee slips and trips in 2013/14 followed by the education sector. Whilst any consultation that sets out to improve public health and safety standards is welcomed, the economic impact any misstep could have on businesses is significant.

REVIEWING PROCESSES

If the proposed guidelines do come into force in late 2015 / early 2016, organisations will need to review their health and safety processes or face the risk of a three or fourfold increase in expected penalties. Larger companies may well be able to absorb this cost but it’s likely to have the biggest impact on small-medium sized business that have tighter profit margins to balance. 

Only recently, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) ran a high profile campaign to raise awareness of health and safety in the workplace with a hard-hitting national TV and print campaign. The issue is clearly a priority for those at the highest ranks of health and safety protection and as an industry, we must respond.

There are simple things businesses can do to protect themselves from a cleaning and hygiene perspective which won’t dent the bottom line. Investing in high quality professional cleaning equipment for example can eliminate the risk of wet floors whilst delivering an all-round better clean. The traditional mop and bucket approach, whilst cheaper upfront, really is an accident waiting to happen. It gives businesses a false sense of economy because a short-term cost cutting could result in a larger fine later down the line. 

MORE THAN JUST A VANITY PROJECT

For many businesses, maintaining clean, dry floors often comes down to one thing, appearance. Businesses are well aware of the impact dirty floors can have on the perception of their company but don’t be fooled… mud and grime can pose a much more sinister threat. Even seemingly innocuous dust, once settled, can greatly reduce the slip resistance of hard floors. It really is an accident waiting to happen. 

And as we enter the autumn and winter months, businesses face an even graver threat from wet and dirty floors. Historical records show seasonality has a proven impact on accidental slips and trips. Numbers spike sharply in wet Septembers and severe winters as daylight hours fall dramatically and adverse weather conditions result in slippy ground surfaces resulting from snow, rain and ice – significantly increasing the risk of costly slips both outdoors and indoors. 

TAKING ACTION

There are several things businesses can do to minimise the risk of slips and trips:

  • Firstly, swap the tired mop and bucket for an efficient scrubber drier which not only delivers a faster clean but leaves floors safe and dry. In a single pass they uniformly distribute washing solution, mechanically remove soiling with either disks or roller brushes, then dry the floor by recovering the washing solution.
  • Secondly, study the ‘slip potential model’ provided by the HSE and conduct the necessary audits to ensure all preventative measures have been put in place. This includes reviewing the cleaning regime and auditing the design and maintenance of the building.
  • Thirdly, adopt the motto “don’t just see it, sort it” – this involves educating employees to report potential hazards they spot and ensuring slips and trips forms a
    part of the company’s risk assessment report.

To make it easier for businesses to address the proposed revisions to the health and safety sentencing guidelines, Kärcher will be offering a two-year extended warranty on all Kärcher Scrubber Driers. Kärcher B 60W scrubber drier, is one of the products to benefit from the new two-year extended warranty. Additionally, Kärcher’s scrubber driers comply with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points HACCP approval from TüV. 

Efficient cleaning technologies can help protect businesses’ assets as well as their staff, producing better results and increasing productivity. It is proven that implementing an effective cleaning regime can drastically reduce health and safety risks in the workplace so it’s a quick win for businesses. 

Don’t slip up on safety.

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